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A. Waters

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  • Questions about Judgment: Trump appointed Flynn in the First Place
    • There are more reasons to be worried about President Trump's fitness to serve as Commander in Chief after the disastrous raid in Yemen last week, his creation of a duplicate but politically controlled national security structure with people such as Steven Bannon holding greater authority than non-partisan experts and his dismissal of the most senior foreign service officers and State Dept. civil servants.

      There is no reason to assume that during the Trump Presidential campaign where Flynn served as sycophantic rabble rouser and senior advisor during the pre-Inauguration transition and was later rewarded by being appointed to the position of National Security Advisor, that Flynn wasn't in contact with Russians in a dual business and political/diplomatic capacity at the behest of Trump.

      No doubt Flynn enjoyed using his "consulting" skills to earn money from those "despicable and evil" Muslims in Turkey just as Rudi Guiliani did business with an groups and organizations that would have posed direct conflicts were he to have been selected as Secretary of State as Trump originally planned.
      link to politico.com

      It's worth examining some key elements of the final years of Flynn when he served as a Lt. Gen. since his career overlapped with three other generals who served during the Obama years and who now have official and informal connections with President Trump.

      Flynn was a deeply flawed head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who reported to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, leader of the failed military campaign in Afghanistan.

      Gen. McChrystal, you might recall, was spectacularly relieved of his command by President Obama after "Rolling Stone Magazine" published an article entitled, "General Stanley McChrystal: The Runaway General in June 2010. link to rollingstone.com

      And both Gen. McChrystal and Gen. Patreus promoted an extreme set of counterinsurgency warfare tactics that were designed within the dubious initiative called COIN, whose raison d'etre was the improbable assertion that the destruction of a country provided the optimal strategy for rebuilding it in our own image.

      If this sounds familiar, it should. Why? Because in Feb. 1968, Peter Arnett, while investigating the immensely destructive campaign being waged by Americans against Bến Tre city as a reporter for the Associated Press was told by a U.S. Army Major that "It became necessary to destroy the town [in order] to save it." Arnett claimed that the Major was referring specifically to the decision made by allied commanders to eliminate the "Vietcong" through intensive bombardment of the town with heavy artillery regardless of civilian casualties, since that would be the most efficacious way to "rout the Vietcong." (For further details read the article, "Major Describes Move," published in The New York Times on Feb. 8th in 1968).

      Lt. Gen. Flynn's anti-Muslim fanaticism compromised the "actionable" intelligence that he passed on to field Generals and his conduct among his colleagues was almost always divisive and combative. But Flynn wasn’t alone in being unable to behave respectfully towards his civilian leaders.

      Gen. Stanley McChrystal's criticism of Vice President Biden and President Obama stemmed from his belief that they were overly cautious and weak-willed. You can't destroy the will of terrorists unless you were ruthless and used overwhelming force according to his formulation of military strategy.

      Gen. McChrystal apparently took great delight in designing small but maximally lethal units who were specially trained for negotiating the diverse terrains leading from Afghanistan to Pakistan in highly asymmetric battles; as well as combining these smaller and highly mobile fighting units along with larger fighting forces.

      You always knew when American forces had made their way through a region because with leaders who seemed to think all Arabic speakers and every Muslim was a potential terrorist, firing their weapons indiscriminately as they entered villages and towns could be morally justified. Needless to say, unlike Vietnam where there was some effort to “win hearts and minds,” such was not the case from the perspective of Lt. Gen. Flynn and Gen. McCrystal and Gen. Patreus as is easily observed when one bothers to consider the impact our military left on the millions of dead, maimed and displaced people and the spectre of entire cities reduced to fiery dust as the skies bellowed up the charred structures that once served as schools, places of worship and markets.

      In fact, the guerilla-style "surge" that Gen. Patreus designed for Iraq, helped further destroy Iraq's social fabric, led to extremely violent sectarian conflict which was not much of problem under Sadaam Hussein, and ultimately caused the collapse of governmental institutions. (Some of the blame must go to former Proconsul Bremer of course). But the dismemberment of Iraq made it possible for the rise of ISIS and other groups who rather easily asserted themselves into the void of a failed state. (See Patrick Cockburn's book, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution).

      And the lessons from such flawed and overly destructive military aggression were never learned -- as we have sadly witnessed from the destruction of Libya; a country led by the cruel and mercurial leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, who nonetheless understood something that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her military backers failed to accept: that Libya’s stability is the most efficacious means of preventing a mass exodus of refugees flooding into Europe via the Mediterranean. There is a useful article from Nov. 2014 published in The Boston Globe that provides an important explanation of the reasons for the complete failure of the “surge” in Iraq under Gen. Patreus. link to bostonglobe.com

      Yet, even after the history of the failed brutal military campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan led by Gen. Patreus, he still continues to argue even now that the best means of defeating terrorists is to arm other terrorists to fight them, those we know we can control because they are “moderates.” link to theguardian.com

      This should give us pause because Gen. Patreus President is still being short-listed as a replacement for Flynn as National Security Advisor according to Time Magazine.
      link to time.com

      As you will remember, while serving as Director of the C.I.A., Gen. Patreus shared classified CIA documents to his mistress and biographer and subsequently pleaded guilty to a felony (but was not required to serve any jail time).

      Now, despite not needing Senate Confirmation to serve as NSA to the U.S. President, it would be incredibly foolish and set a terrible precedent to reappoint someone to the staff of the most important group of foreign policy advisors when he has previously engaged in criminal activity that directly undermined his position, compromised the integrity of the most famous of the more than 15 intelligence agencies, as well as displayed incredibly poor judgment.

      This raises another issue that Prof. Cole has discussed previously but which needs to be discussed in even greater detail in light of Flynn’s forced resignation: relying on too many military leaders in positions that were designed to be led by civilians. Given the gutting of most of the best career Foreign Service officers and senior non-political State Dept. officials and with retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Matthis as head of Pentagon, there will be virtually no civilian oversight of our military (especially civilians who are not easily intimidated by the military as was President Obama) and this will most likely increase covert, undeclared and constitutionally illegal military campaigns that does not occur in the post-Vietnam era without greater reliance on “civilian contractors,” that is, mercenaries.

      According to leading investigative journalist Eric Scahill, few people know that Erik Prince, founder of the infamously corrupt mercenary firm Blackwater (who is also the brother of clueless Education Secretary Betsy DeVos), is secretly advising President Trump on foreign policy. link to democracynow.org

      When one considers all of these developments since 2009, it seems almost ineluctable that the U.S. will continue to destabilize the Middle East, create more adversaries and will continue to fail to develop a strategy that does not continue to provoke China as has occurred during the Obama administration with the “pivot” towards China which included encircling China with U.S. military bases as well as the significantly furthering the militarization of Japan. (That is why President Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week: to further commit to the increased militarization of Japan, which is a direct threat to China, which is provocative considering Japan’s brutal occupation of China during WWII, especially during the Rape of Nanjing).

      China is already a world power (but one with far more urgent social problems than exist now in the U.S.) and China remains the one country in the world with the greatest leverage over North Korea necessary to prevent further dangerous acts of aggression such as deployment of a ballistic missile test conducted only two days ago (which also occurred within 48 hours of Russia’s treaty-defying launching of new cruise missiles). link to nytimes.com

      North Korea typically engages in some kind of provocative military test when it wants something from the West. But in this case, it was yet another sign of political instability. In fact, there is now indisputable evidence that North Korea’s political elite are fracturing. (There have been several, frequently lethal purges during the last 4 years, most recently the top political enforcer, as was reported in the NY Times on Feb. 3rd). link to nytimes.com And: link to opendemocracy.net

  • After Miller's Mega-Lies, time to rev back up the Reality Based Community
    • It seems to me that Trump, Bannon, Miller et. al. have adopted a singularly outrageously ambitious and legally improper approach to governing: using every means to challenge the other branches of government.

      That is, we know that the American judiciary system and Congress take time to investigate as well as place checks and boundaries on the Executive Branch. And even with a legal win against Team Trump, who is going to ensure the laws are enforced? Hundreds of people with Green cards were still forced to spend long hours in airports or were still forced to leave the U.S. even after by a temporary stay was issued against Trump's Executive Order by a judges.

      It's worth comparing Trump with Nixon. Sadly, however, most Americans, including scholars, have completely misunderstood Nixon's Watergate crisis. Nixon's "enemies list" essentially targeted other elites, that is, people who could fight back. And they did. That is the reason why Nixon's lies and behavior caused a constitutional crisis that was only resolved by Nixon's resignation. But in Nixon's paid interview with British talk show host David Frost, he unabashedly admitted that "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal," a claim for the unmitigated and absolute power of the Presidency.

      So, Bannon, in his attempts to surpass Karl Rove, has initiated a multifrontal attack on all of the federal agencies (e.g. hiring people who are either incompetent or who plan to dismantle the fundamental objectives of the agencies they head); and by empowering police forces who will be less likely to alter the use of aggressive tactics against minorities and anyone considered Arab or Muslim (they aren't known for understanding the distinction between Arabic speakers and Muslims). This will occur through the further militarization of police forces and by eradicating community-police force initiatives.

      What will elevate these policy shifts and funding increases to a coordinated policy is Jeff Sessions, our newly (and shamefully) confirmed Attorney General who will allow the Justice Department (including the FBI) to engage in activities aimed to prevent peaceful demonstrations and will aggressively target human right groups and civil society organizations who believe in democratic action, these new enemies who have the audacity to engage in direct action and civil disobedience because they believe in the Bill of Rights and Constitutional protections.

      But laws are hypothetical injunctions and offer notional protections. Enforcing even minor laws does not occur with great frequency; and if the objective is to create Executive Orders and redirect government agencies to abandon their foundational principles, these actions will overwhelm the Judiciary branch.

      Furthermore, such actions will create massive chaos within Congress as elected officials scramble to deal with a population determined to make their voices heard and force Congress to response to demands that have the weight of established law to support them (even if the dominant Republican party tries to allow Trump to prevail despite countervailing forces determined to consistently challenge Trump and thereby reduce his popularity even more.

      It seems clear to me that Trump is on the offensive and our mainstream news media have not yet found a way to stymie the massive amount of lies and the overwhelming penchant of Trump's senior staff to create misdirection.

      Already, people with permanent residency (Green card holders) and with visas allowing them to remain in the U.S. for study, work, holidays, etc., feel worried. Ethnic minorities will find it much harder to legally vote when they are harassed (as was the case in many areas with high numbers of minorities during the Nov. 2016 Presidential election).

      Many people, including the venerable "Democracy Now" program suggested that Trump didn't seem to understand that Frederick Douglas was no longer alive. But I think Trump deliberately sought to undermine Douglas by suggesting "he's getting more and more recognition" as a means of suggesting Douglas doesn't really need to be recognized or isn't all that important. link to democracynow.org

      Trump's team might in fact demolish much of our functioning federal agencies and his contradictory domestic policies (such as the much derided Muslim ban as Trump advisor Rudi Guiliani defended with a hint of cynical pride on Fox News when Trump and his team repeatedly denied without any shame or sense of regret other than being overruled by judges who weren't convinced by the government's expressed rationale). link to washingtonpost.com

      But Trump's team will flounder on foreign policy. Regrettably, the power of the U.S. State Dept. has been secondary to the misnamed Dept. of Defense (misnamed because most of what Pentagon employees and especially top officials dedicate their efforts towards is weapons procurement and weapons transfer/sales as well as maintaining at least 900 military bases in over 100 countries -- and not worrying about protecting the United States and its overseas territories as would be the case with say, the Ministers of Defense for nearly every other country in the world except the UK.

      So, Trump's foreign policy is already heading towards a nasty collision caused by direct conflicts of interests among our allies in the Middle East (Israel, Iraq, Egypt, the Gulf States and Turkey) while concurrently attempting to forge relations with Russia, a country now politically aligned with Syria, Iran and China.

      And if North Korea is such a worry, then China is essential for preventing further recklessness by their leader; yet Trump's team seems to be far more openly hostile to China, a situation which could easily lead to serious military conflict in the South China Sea.

      So, yes, the Trump team gives the appearance of all bluster but I think the top aids, especially Bannon, have launched a full-scale assault on what we will are beginning to now learn are very fragile American institutions; and with a judiciary system that will be reticent in attempting to reign in the Executive Branch.

      It's possible that things could become so chaotic, that Republicans could begin to withdraw support for Trump and make him an offer he can't refuse; thereby, allowing Pence to become POTUS. But that scenario does not suggest a more promising alternative given that Pence makes Dick Cheney seem moderate and George W. Bush appear enlightened compared with Trump.

      So, given what we have now seen and endured, we will need to develop more strategically robust ways of responding to the assaults on our basic freedoms and our deracinated liberal democracy whose demise began under Nixon (possibly even LBJ despite the "Great Society" programs); and has only accelerated under the Democratic answer to Reagan's Conservative movement: the neo-liberal order. That is why for me, this developing dystopia doesn't inspire much confidence.

      Still, the fanatical arrogance of Trump and Bannon is their main weakness along with a a pathological desperation for public appreciation (actually, continuous public embrace). That should inspire us to become more creative in how we respond to these troubling times.

  • Trump to al-Sisi: Syria's al-Assad is a Brave, steadfast Man (Beirut Report)
    • I doubt there is much use in speculating about whether this is a genuine leak because fundamentally, Trump's team with Flynn as NSC advisor and Mattis Secretary of Defense and Tillerson as Secretary of State, will find supporting Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Israel simultaneously will create more terrorism than they can handle. Turkey's secularism seems destined for the ashes of history. And despite Israel's desire to prevent Iran from becoming a regional power, Iran now has an alliance with Russia and is likely to develop stronger ties with China.

      There is no simple way to prevent a deepening of contradictions in American foreign policy over inherently unstable coalitions with states whose rivalries interfere with achieving political stability; and therefore, cannot help overcome the vast social inequalities that create the incendiary incentives to initiate social movements to alter the status quo.

      One might not agree with the political program of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they were doing better than has Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in preventing the wholesale evisceration of the Christian Coptic community in Cairo and were far less aggressive in the persecution of journalists, academics, artists and film makers.

      Egypt seems likely to enter a period of prolonged political instability and further American military intervention in Iraq; as well as tacit support for Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will intensify fighting among the disparate militias whose access to sophisticated weapons is not trivial.

      One topic that has received little coverage is the demographic shift in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in comparison with European and Nordic countries. Anywhere from 40%-60% of the populations of the Middle East North Africa is under the age of 30. This is the sophisticated generation who were raised on social media which helped enormously in the rise of the Arab Spring (as well as ISIS).
      link to jia.sipa.columbia.edu

      And what will Trump's team do about the Kurds who are (relatively) thriving in Iraq, brutalized in Turkey and a target in Syria (because of Turkey)?

      If Trump supports Russia, then Putin has achieved a major victory with just two remaining challenges: 1) supporting a weakened EU which seems curiously aligned with the so-called populist right parties who recently convened in Germany under the leadership of Marie LePen; and 2) destabilizing the NATO alliance which might occur simply because there is conflict over the status of NATO within Trump's inner circle.

  • Trump to CIA: We now have 2nd Chance to take Iraq's Oil
    • Trump's fiasco at the CIA reminds me of the imaginary worlds created in the novels of Latin America's "magical realism" writers such as Borges, except in their clever phantasmagorical creations, history with all of its violence, clearly constrains the future and places the present in a state of interminable confusion, limiting the impetus for progressive change.

      Trump, like Putin, is a master at misdirection.
      link to theguardian.com

      Trump has allowed journalists and the general public people to argue over trivial things such as the size of the his Inauguration crowd compared with Obama's and the number of people participating in the national and global protests on Jan. 21st.

      And while we were distracted, fewer people engaged in serious scrutiny of how his team convinced Senator Marc Rubio to vote for Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, the consequences of Trump firing all US ambassadors abroad (with no replacements); and the impact of Trump's largely theatrical but still ominous act of signing Presidential Executive Orders repealing Obamacare and announcing there will be no hiring of new federal employees and imposing a gag rule on international NGO's receiving U.S. funding that provide abortion and reproductive support services for women in developing countries. link to theguardian.com

      It remains unclear how the Pentagon under Gen. Mattis can resist increasing the number of jihadists operating in the Middle East and seeking soft targets throughout Europe while supporting Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well as dealing with the Turkey's internal terrorism and external support for war against the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

      Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has now created a religious-infused authoritarianism that is undermining its secular political system which was very tolerant and liberal and safe from terrorism (if we discount the way Turkey has treated its Kurds and the rise of Kurdish militias fighting Turkey along with ISIS).
      link to theguardian.com

      One issue that has generally gone unremarked, is that Erik Prince, the brother of Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and founder of a mercenary firm responsible for assisting Dick Cheney's secret assassination program similar in aim to the Phoenix program during the Vietnam War (via Blackwater and its various name changes), is advising Trump behind the scenes.
      link to democracynow.org

      What I find quite worrying is that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kusher, has been cleared to serve as a Trump senior advisor despite rules against nepotism. Kusher has been part of a group financing the illegal construction of settlements on Palestinian land. link to chicagotribune.com
      link to theguardian.com

      So, now on day 4 of the Trump era, our new American President and his inner circle are openly supporting the reactionary and corrupt Prime Minister of Israel who has built more illegal settlements than his predecessors (and who has just announced that he will build another 2500 homes in the West Bank).
      link to theguardian.com

      Many of Trump's inner circle also have have close ties with leaders of fragile political states in the Middle East and North Africa that have troubled relations with Israel and not unsurprising, actively support conservative religious groups which in turn covertly sponsor jihadist groups.

      In his 8 years as POTUS, Obama never found a way to reduce these contradictory elements of a foreign policy inherited from the Camp David Peace Accords in 1979 shepherded under former President Jimmy Carter.

      And with Turkey emboldened by joining Russia and Syria in peace talks, and Iran in a coalition with Russia, the fissures will increase as will violence and greater political instability.

      In this scenario, control over oil is less of a factor than an expanded and protracted series of overlapping wars that will exacerbate the crisis of failed and weakened states; and this will likely occur even if violence decreases in Syria as a consequence of Russia's triumph in Syria in defiance of the U.S.
      link to talkingpointsmemo.com

      The era of ISIS as a distinctive quasi-political war machine in search of the status of a stable theocratic state, might very well end sometime in 2017... but there are dozens of other allied and independent militia-political groups with enough experience in fighting in asymmetric wars who can easily obtain U.S. weapons shipped to our Gulf state allies.

      So, even without the threat of stealing Iraqi oil, the Trump team will likely further accelerate chaos in a region where the invasion and destruction of Libya under Obama/HRC, (which directly created the European refugee crisis in Europe) is now cynically and conveniently being exploited to gather more support for Europe's most reactionary neo-populist groups (who just convened in Koblenz, Germany).
      link to theguardian.com

  • Trump feuds with Merkel, EU, BMW, NATO, China, CIA but not with Putin
    • “…there will be difficulty employing the military to facilitate strategic foreign policy objectives.”

      It's not clear the U.S. has a coherent foreign policy but yet our leaders continue to sanction the use of violent aggression against anyone or any group, including Americans, almost anywhere it wants.

      American foreign policy has been a disaster especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

      We have expanded NATO to Eastern Europe, sponsored coups in the Republic of Georgia and in the Ukraine and we have not really won any military wars since the Korean armistice unless you count the invasion of Grenada in response to the 1983 killing of Marines in Libya as anything other than a public relations stunt.

      The problem is that our economy relies on our massive military which continues to expand into Sub-Sahara Africa and engage in endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Surely there is no controversy in claiming that in the process, we have created failed states in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen and Somalia.

      All of these military interventions have exacerbated the tendency towards destabilization among key allies such as Turkey and Egypt as well as radicalizing young men throughout the Middle East and North Africa who seem to be mounting a campaign in Europe that targets civilians in public spaces and nightclubs (i.e. "soft targets"). Why? As a way to create greater social divisions among multicultural European countries. This seems like the evolving strategy of ISIS and its affiliates, dreadful and morally revolting but effective in their conception of successful engagement in asymmetric warfare.

      It's virtually impossible to suddenly withdraw troops stationed in over 110 countries.

      In addition, on Jan. 16th, about 300 U.S. Marines arrived in Norway, which shares a border with Russia, for the alleged purpose of gaining expertise in "arctic warfare." link to rt.com

      I doubt any U.S. President could take on the military and successfully stop its massive expansion into a parallel set of privatized special operation-designated mercenaries (also known as "civilian contractors").

      Our economy is simply overly dependent upon our military as are the countries who gain lots of economic incentives to host our military despite frequent episodes of behavior that upsets the locals as infamously occurred in Okinawa, the Philippines and South Korea during the last 20 years.

      These developments are troubling and perhaps impossible to end. For greater insight, consider the efforts of the late great historian Chalmers Johnson who devoted the last years of his life writing a trilogy of books about the American military empire as has Prof. Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army Col.

    • You are correct! My mistake.

    • It's interesting that Trump is first "interviewed" by Michael Gove for Rupert Murdoch's paper in what was essentially less of an interview than a puff-piece (hagiography) by one of the architects of Brexit; a man who managed to sabotage his friend's chances to become leader of the Tory Party (Boris Johnson, now the UK's Foreign Minister).

      Michael Gove had an underwhelming performance as Justice Minister and Education Minister and given helped orchestrate a soft coup against David Cameron and treachery against long-time political allies. This resulted in Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. And she immediately sacked Michael Gove. So, it seems to me that Michael Gove's meeting with Trump was partially an attempt to undermine Theresa May and ingratiate himself with Trump.

      Yet on the the same day that Trump is meeting with Michael Gove, Trump is unsurprisingly, interviewed by the German reactionary tabloid, Der Bild, the very same publication which supported George W. Bush over John Kerry for President.

      Der Bild has a long sordid history against liberal dissidents which includes the nasty feud with the great German writer Heinrich Böll whose 1974 satirical novel, "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum" deals directly with the negative consequence of a fictionalized tabloid and their morally corrupt journalists in exacerbating violent conflict and undermining democracy.

      It is also worth noting that Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's Deputy Chancellor and Minister for the Economy, explained that the increase in the number of people fleeing the Middle East to seek asylum in Europe had partially been a consequence of US-led wars destabilizing the region.

      Specifically, Gabriel said, “There is a link between America’s flawed interventionist policy, especially the Iraq war, and the refugee crisis; that’s why my advice would be that we shouldn’t tell each other what we have done right or wrong, but that we look into establishing peace in that region and do everything to make sure people can find a home there again." link to theguardian.com

      So again, Trump displays total ignorance about Europe's largest economy and probably doesn't realize Germany's strategic importance to our military such as the U.S. Army's Signal Corp in Heidelberg responsible for intelligence gathering and communication transmission and interception across Europe.

      With Trump's alienation of the intelligence community, there will be difficulty employing the military to facilitate strategic foreign policy objectives.

      Obama's administration had many key failures in foreign policy such as in Libya and Syria but at least there was close cooperation and trust among key national security advisors, the Pentagon and State Dept. Trump has none of these assets in place. This situation probably suggests more failed states or at least greater destabilization from West Asia to the Middle East, East Asia and the Horn of Africa.

      Trump has already irritated key allies while doing everything possible to realize Putin's strategy of weakening NATO and the EU and strengthening Russia's position in the Middle East (at the cost of the destruction of Syria).

      Every day leading to the Inauguration seems to reveal another looming catastrophe.

  • 5 Images that refute Trump's attack on Hero John Lewis
    • Actually John Lewis has every reason to claim that Trump's election is illegitimate simply by reading what the U.S. Constitution says in the emoluments clause which emphatically states that no “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under as office-holder [in the United States]” is prohibited from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State”. Trumps financial debt to China and Russia and various business ventures abroad that definitely create a constitutional crisis from day of of his Presidency. link to theguardian.com

      Read also the commentary by Prof. Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School who during his 40 plus academic career has established himself as probably the preeminent constitutional legal scholar in the United States.
      link to theguardian.com

      I think the repeated racism emanating from Trump and has shifting group of enablers who had no restraints from comparing the First Lady to a gorilla in heels and justifying "preemptive" precautionary counter-offensives against Muslims (who he conflates with Arabs) and against social groups deemed threatening merely from having a complexion deemed inherently dangerous and threatening raises some important questions. Chief among them is a more robust investigation into whether the incoming administration will be inclined to uphold American federal civil rights laws we have signed that were born from non-violent civil disobedience and immense state-sponsored and vigilante violence in the United States and international human rights principles that we have voted to uphold.

      Rep. Lewis did employ more direct, less measured tones in his comments about Trump than was the case with President Obama during his last week of interviews. I would have preferred that he explain his reasons more expansively, but I think he expressed moral outrage the conduct of a Presidential campaign that founded on lies and spawned a wave of violence based on fake news that continues unabated.

      Yet, I respect Rep. Lewis in his willingness to articulate the dictates of his moral conscience which has served the United States well at great personal cost to himself in ways that few of us would willing risk.

      By this I simply mean to suggest that Rep. Lewis has every moral right to claim that Trump's elevation to President-Elect was among the most vulgar Presidential campaigns since John Adams was defeated by a cabal led by Alexander Hamilton over not wanting to enter the weakened U.S. against the French in a battle that we would have surely lost. Read the 751 page book, John Adams by the late historian David McCullough.
      link to newrepublic.com

      And even when viewed from the ethically shallow standards exhibited during the electoral victory of Nixon and Ronald Reagan (whose team persuaded Iran not to release the hostages until after the election in a way that undermined President Carter as well as aggravated the trauma of the American hostages for cynical political gain rather than the national interest), the Trump victory has made these unsavory shenanigans seem somehow more palatable in retrospect; and that is no small accomplishment.

      Consider that even during Trump's first post-election news conference last Wed. he was petulant, dismissive of reporters who asked pertinent questions, continuously contradictory and during the week. And Trumps tweet comparing the CIA and U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany was simply outrageous and morally egregious. S, it was no surprise that out-going CIA chief John responded in turn: link to theguardian.com

      Brennan) ethically immoral and politically reckless but Plus,

      Trump has usurped powers that are only accorded to a sitting President by meeting with foreign leaders, blatantly disregarding diplomatic protocol and he is lending great credence that his summit with Putin in Iceland creates some credence to some of the contents of the dossier which John McCain passed on to the President Obama, the FBI and CIA.

      Essentially, Trump and his echo-chamber of xenophobic Muslim-hating, misogynist inner circle have not undergone full Senate confirmation hearings.

      In addition, Trump has recklessly decided to forgo divestment of his financial holdings from his sonsas he had promised and so was rightly was lambasted by the U.S. government's ethics chief, Walter Shaub because of the conflicts of interest. link to theguardian.com

      Even more troubling is another analysis: link to theguardian.com

      Certainly Donal Trump enters the world's most powerful position with lower ratings than anyone in recent history and his first 100 days in office --typically the honeymoon period, will be fraught with the kinds of difficulties that will confound and perhaps lead to the most dysfunctional start of a U.S. Presidency in history when we consider that the global dangers that existed during the last 8 years have worsened with even greater alacrity than anyone could have imagined.

  • Top 4 Ways Bush even more Outrageously Dissed the Intelligence Community
    • Let's be clear that during the 8 years George W. Bush was the official POTUS, Dick Cheney served as a second POTUS, essentially creating his own National Security State within a state. It was well known after the first Gulf War that Sadam Hussein had abandoned any nuclear mabitions.

      When 9/11 occurredd Cheney and his cabal (Donald Rumsfeld at the Department of Defense and Paul Bremer as Proconsul after his stint at Kissinger & Associates) was all about destroying the independence of the Department of State and the military. (It is important to remember how Gen. Eric Shinseki was relieved of his command for honestly answering a question that at least 200,000 troops were needed for a ground invasion).

      I think Cheney's plan all along was that an easy win in Iraq would allow for pipelines in the control of the U.S. would lead from the Republic or Georgia through Central Asia and end in the Mesopotamia region. It is interesting to know that Tony Blair, British PM, was angry that the UK was not receiving any petrol concessions despite serving as our junior ally. And Libby was not pardoned for his transgressions by the ethical George W. Bush who wanted to be viewed as better than President Clinton in pardoning people. So, Libby Scooter is no longer allowed to practice law.

      James Clapper lied under oath and should have been sanctioned (it's a felony). And outing an active CIA agent (Valerie Plame) is treasonous.

      The simple fact is that the intelligence agencies lost their independence during the Indochinese wars beginning with JFK up to the present.

      The problem is that analysts and translators, specialists who know what is occurring, where and how, write reports that are passed on to their superiors. But one cannot expect to have a career when the political appointees (which Cheney ensured would be loyal to him), want reports that make claims they want to use as a justification of employing policy based on "actionable intelligence."

      Gen. Colin Powell for all of his faults (he was an Army Major responsible for removing Lt. Calley and his men to a hilltop far from reporters after the My Lai massacres), was firmly against invading Iraq and was the most popular of their senior inner circle. Cheney is alleged to have said, "well, Powell's popularity is so high he can afford to take some of the heat" after delivering one of the most morally grotesque presentations to the United Nations filled with lies. Unabashed lies known by people such as Dr. Hans Blix who in 2002 as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was unable to find WMD in Iraq.

      We should also remember that President Clinton's bombing of Kosovo had nothing to do with "humanitarian intervention" in support of Kosovar Albanians but instead, was undertaken with a singular objective: the expansion of NATO further inside Russia's buffer zone. Strobe Talbott, now President of the Brookings Institute, served as President Clinton's Senior member of the Pentagon/State Department intelligence Joint Committee on diplomacy for Russia and the Balkans and wrote the forward to a 2005 book written by John Norris, his Director of Communications, entitled, "Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo." You can read a review here:
      link to foreignaffairs.com

      One of the ways that Henry Kissinger was able to dominate the Nixon White House first as National Security Chief and later as Secretary of State, was to create dozens of committees responsible for investigating the spectrum of factors that the U.S. had to negotiate in promulgating its ruthless campaign of terror in Indochina and among client states in Southeast Asia (the Philippines) and by Indonesia first against its own people during 1965 when upwards of 1,000,000 souls were brutally killed because they dared to want to be independent of American dominance; as well as Indonesia's ruthless war crimes in East Timor in Dec. 1975 after East Timor gained its independence from Portugal.

      Kissinger consolidated his power by ensuring that he was made chair of each committee and so became the sole conduit of information that was relayed to President Nixon. Cheney, however, even surpassed Kissinger by serving as a dual President running his own foreign policy and subjugating dissenting voices such as Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. Eric Shinseki when their views contradicted the catastrophic disasters that emerged from the planning of the triumvirate of Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bremer
      that created the disasters that have only worsened since Obama (with HRC) exacerbated during the last 8 years.

      There is also evidence that George W. Bush was not especially keen or diligent in reading security briefings and did not like to be deserved after 10:00 pm. In this regard, Tony Blair was only a more articulate and intelligent version of George W. Bush and against all common sense, allowed the UK to invade and partake of the killing of an excess of people well beyond 600,000 from 2002-2006 in two studies undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in 2002 and 2006, the latest of which can be read here: link to web.mit.edu

      Naturally, the Bush team tried to discredit the meticulous Johns Hopkins research (which it should be noted, was overly cautious and conservative, and therefore underestimated the extent of the increase in deaths as consequence of the invasion of Iraq in 2003). It is Interesting and ironic, however, that the studies by Johns Hopkins have supported independent studies undertaken by the State Department and numerous health workers and NGOs which were all ignored and dismissed by the Bush-Cheney White House.

      I think the danger is that Trump may further attempt to reorganize the 16/17 different intelligence agencies plus Homeland Security in a way that makes it virtually impossible for lower level analysts to have their reports read by senior officials whose job it is to provide daily updates and weekly briefings for the Donald Trump when he assumes the office of POTUS on Jan. 20th.

      Already we know that the FBI (which favored Trump overwhelmingly during the 2016 election) has repeatedly clashed with the CIA during the Obama years. The election of Trump has created a mass exodus of high-ranking members of the U.S. intelligence community who are resigning en masse because of Trump's disdain for the work of the American intelligence community. link to theguardian.com

      So, G.W. Bush lied as has our still immensely popular President Obama in regards to continued U.S. support for jihadist rebels in Syria ("white helmets") in addition to military actions undertaken in Yemen, Somalia and Libya. And we know that Obama has continued covert actions in Colombia, South America (our last way of trying to manipulate politics under the cover of the "war on drugs").

      Thus, lying to the American public has become entrenched in a manner one could suggest is now unequivocally de rigueur for those aspiring to have some influence with our vast national security state.

      This means there is a long established tradition going back to JFK but accelerated since LBJ who followed the lead of his senior advisors like Robert Strange MacNamara who served as Secretary of Defense from 1961-1968 years and is chiefly responsible for the escalation of war in Indochina (along with former MIT professor Walt Rostow who served as Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to US President LBJ from 1966–69).

      It remains to be seen whether disregarding intelligence altogether is more reckless than manipulating intelligence for reckless pursuit of political objectives that will probably be geared chiefly for the economic benefit of the sycophants and economic supporters of the incoming President.

      Perhaps we can even think of this new era as the inception of Cheney 2.0 since Energy companies (especially Halliburton) and private contractors (mercenaries) essentially created a parallel but private military and intelligence umbrella whose very presence created conflict with most senior military officials and weakened our official intelligence gathering systems in a way that they regained their status under Obama.

  • Rebuking Fundamentalists, Funeral for Palestinian-Israeli Istanbul Victim draws Thousands
    • The U.S. has actually undermined secularism not simply because of links with socialism, but with the ethos of a "third way" for development independent of superpowers. This initiative in the post-colonial world in which the 1955 Bandung Conference sponsored by Sukarno of Indonesia frightened Henry Kissinger and other elite foreign policy planners.

      They responded by having Sukarno deposed in a hailstorm of mass murder orchestrated by the U.S. which helped create lists of those to be eradicated in one of the most brutal campaigns ever against center and leftists such as Indonesia's PKI).

      By 1966 upwards of 1,000,000 people were killed and the military dictatorship of Gen. Suharto came to power in 1967 and only ended in 1998. (The hyper-real 2012 documentary, "The Act of Killing" recreates the manner of mass killings from the view o actual perpetrators.
      link to en.wikipedia.org (For more on the latest research on the 1965 bloodshed in Indonesia, consult the reports prepared by the International People's Tribunal which has valiantly investigated the bloodbath that occurred during 1965 in Indonesia): link to tribunal1965.org

      The brutal wars in Indochina, contrary to common opinion, had nothing to do with fighting communism but creating a Japan-led economic corridor with South East Asia embedded along with South Korea, particularly Indonesia because of its vast resources and strategic location.

      Claims that the "domino theory" are what motivated the U.S. are simplistic and absurdly ridiculous because what mattered was preventing countries from becoming robustly autonomous and ensuring that they would not have the capacity to develop independently outside of the U.S. sphere; and this included countries wishing to be neutral.

      That is why after the conclusion of the Vietnam War in April 1975, Vietnam was diplomatically and economically isolated, unable to gain international aid for reconstruction until President Bill Clinton recognized Vietnam in July 1995. And the U.S. continued to covertly support the remnants of the Khmer Rouge who were ousted by the Vietnamese in 1978 after several unprovoked attacks initiated by Pol Pot against Vietnam.

      In fact, we can now say with moral certainty that Vietnam's defeat of the Khmer Rouge remains one of the few actual instances of "humanitarian intervention" during the 20th century because the "auto-genocide" of the Khmer Rouge killed over 2,000,000 people in just over 3 years. (It's another question how long Vietnam should have remained in Cambodia after defeating the Khmer Rouge).

      One has only to examine the reaction to the election of Evo Morales to the Presidency of Bolivia in 2006 because Morales was a labor activist and historically significant, is a member of the Aymara people, an indigenous group, the first indigenous leader in all of the Americas.

      I mention these historical cases merely to indicate that ideology matters little to the foreign policy of American elites as much as control over a country's ability to form economic relations in which the U.S. is not allowed a preponderance of influence.

      So the brutal death of 19 year old Layan Nasser, a Palestinian Israeli, should indeed give us pause because there is virtually no understanding of how Islam has had a tradition of secular tendencies with varying degrees of civic freedom in Lebanon (Beirut has been rightly called the Paris of the Middle East), Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from 1923-1938 and remained its strong secular tradition until the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK party in 2002 (but this has been rapidly eroding since the Aug. 2014 election and the aborted military coup in July 2016).

      Iran is currently among the most culturally "Westernized" countries in the Middle East thanks in large part to the same regional demographic shift in which 60% of its is population of 80 million people is under 30. link to iranprimer.usip.org

      Iran provides us with a useful study in the convaluted orientation of American foreign policy. Despite Obama's successful 6 parties talks with Iran that has created closer ties since the 1979 Iranian Revolution ended official diplomatic ties and the crippling sanctions placed on Iran along with the 8 year war that the U.S. sponsored between Sadam Hussein's Iraq and Iran (1980-1988), the U.S. has been accepting more Iranian students to study each year since the millennium; and in fact, Iran had the 12th highest number of international students studying in the U.S. during the 2012-2013 academic year.
      link to insidehighered.com and link to nytimes.com

      It seems to me that the United States has created an inherently unstable and contradictory foreign policy that has failed inexorably because of competing interests. It was a mighty achievement to get Israel and Egypt to agree to the 1979 Peace Treaty orchestrated by President Jimmy Carter. But there were two consequences to this peace treaty which still loom large in the present. First, the Soviet Union lost its foothold in the Middle East as a consequence of Egyptian willingness to change sides from the East to the West and there is now ample evidence that the KGB under Andropov was seeking the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with the help of Venezuelan-born and international celebrity-terrorist "Carlos the Jackal." But Sadat's death two years after peace with Israel was ultimately accomplished by the Muslim Brotherhood who are still powerful. So, Putin's support of the unsavory regime in Syria has allowed Russian to regain a foothold in the Middle East for the first time since 1979. That is no small achievement, though for the Syrians, especially during the grotesque siege of Aleppo, there is not much appreciation for Russia's intervention.

      Note also that the U.S. did not show much enthusiasm for the "Arab Spring" and has done everything possible to support extremism in Syria (the so-called "moderates" were mostly comprised of jihadists).

      Just as the U.S. electoral college was created in order to enable elites to vacate the popular vote should the ignorant masses vote for someone not to their liking, the U.S. does not have a morally encouraging record of endorsing social movements that cannot be controlled. This explains why we have supported religious fundamentalism, the unique Wahabi form of Sunni Islam promulgated by Saudi Arabia, a state which has benefited enormously from U.S. military aid (warplanes and armaments) as well as logistical support for its brutal destruction of Yemen. Support for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf-state coalition is incompatible with allowing de-Baathification of the Sunni majority in Iraq who dominated the Shi'a minority under Sadam Hussein, plus then granting Iraqi Kurds with an autonomous region but not the 15-20 million Kurds in Turkey and parts of Syria who have been savagely targeted in campaigns that are nearly equivalent in potency to what one would call state-sponsored ethnic cleansing.

      So, on the 5th of January in 2017, we are confronted with the specter of fractured states with ever-expansive internecine violence within all but failed states in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

      And consequently (because entirely predictable), Turkey and Egypt have become destabilized as reactionary religious-inspired terror initially targeted religious minorities but has now expanded to include the most liberal and secular segment of the population, the middle class along with the police, military and security services.

      The Dec. 10th bombing in Istanbul occurred outside the football stadium about 2 hours after the end of the match between the two most prominent teams in the first division of Turkey's professional football league (Beşiktaş and Bursaspor). So, the target was police and security services rather than fans. Even so, the choice of location was not arbitrary: the two bombs exploded in the chic middle-class neighborhood of Beşiktaş located on Istanbul's European side, something unthinkable in June 2016.

      And the New Year's Eve attack against revelers in Istanbul's Reina nightclub, was similar to the vicious Nov. 2015 attack at the world famous Bataclan theater in Paris. The targets were middle class and the rich.

      The main conclusion we should reach is that ISIS with (unwitting?) help by Turkey's Erdogan and Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is creating a wedge between the majority who were raised in states that once promoted secularism in public and allowed a legally enforced minimum of civil liberties with freedom of the press allowed under Mubarak.

      What we are witnessing in Egypt and Turkey is a vicious self-reinforcing campaign of escalating terror against official enemies of the state (which seems increasingly arbitrary). ISIS is employing its greatest asset in urban-based asymmetric warfare: soft targets. And ISIS can dispense with arduous and intensive training in bomb-making by encouraging newly radicalized people to hijack buses and trucks and plow them into public spaces with large crowds. It's the simplest and most diabolical strategy: create public panic, with governments reacting disproportionately, thereby creating more victims, instilling increased fear and distrust; and in the process, linking secularism with Western decadence and "spiritual pollution" to employ a phrase that was promulgated by the Chinese Community Party in response to the first wave of Western university teachers and cultural influences between 1983 and 1984. link to nytimes.com

      In both Turkey and Egypt, there have been nasty purges of civil servants and loyal security service and senior police along with the mass arrest of novelists, journalists and artists in addition to registered NGOs and international human right groups who have frequently been labelled as "terrorists." This is a trend soon likely to become fully entrenched as the normalization of state-sponsored domestic terror and state-sponsored cross-border terror replaces a more secular, rights-based society that the "Arab Spring" sought to create. link to independent.co.uk

      Viewed then from the perspective of the "end of history" at the conclusion of the official Cold War, such developments can only be accepted when we finally dispense with feigned surprise at the chilling irony of proclaiming to eschew terror perpetrated by some diabolical "other" and yet continue to exempt ourselves (and our allies) from being held accountable for engaging in preemptive police actions.

      And since we know in advance of the likely calamitous consequences that our military actions will have on a variety of social actors and ethno-political groups in the 110 plus countries where U.S. troops and mercenaries are located , we invariably engage in premeditated evil.

      There should no longer be any need for apoplectic responses by as more countries begin to imitate the U.S. and kidnap "enemies of the people" after which they are denied any basic rights while in the hospitality of a state with "black sites" since this is now unequivocally the new norm.

      For example, China has begun to imitate the U.S. and has only recently released a 36 year old Swedish human rights activist who disappeared for 23 days that would have been unthinkable before extraordinary renditions or outright killing via drones became normalized by President George W. Bush and his successor, outgoing President Barak Obama.
      link to theguardian.com

      Given the Inauguration of Donald Trump as POTUS on Jan. 20th, we urgently need to think more circumspectly about Obama's dual policies of containment in East Asia (China) and Iran (economic sanctions and using cyber warfare to prevent peaceful and internationally legal use of enriched uranium with frequent inspections).

      Sure, President Obama brought a grace and elegance, wit and intelligence and oversaw a West Wing that was scandal-free during his 8 year tenure as the American President. Yet, in foreign policy, Obama has failed dramatically as we have seen most especially since in 2014 and 2015 to the present in France, and several times in Germany from Jan. 2015 to Dec. 2016 and during the last 12 months in Turkey.

      Despite the somber ceremonial remembrances of the attack on Pearl Harbor that included Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama on Dec. 27th, Obama has actively pushed for the increased militarization of Japan (which is provocative to China and undermines the post-war rehabilitation of Japan).

      And this is occurring as South Korea suffers from political instability whose impact on North Korea remains desperately unpredictable precisely when it would be beneficial for stability in Northeast Asia (the region from the Korean peninsula and the Japanese islands to Russia's Vladivostok).

      This means that the world is far more unstable than when Obama entered the White House 8 years ago.

      There is no reason to think that Russia's support of Syria and its attempts to form closer ties with China and Iran will be able to shore up an extremely weak Russian economy that is entirely dominated by oligarchs loyal to Putin that operates more like a hybrid ponzi-pyramid scheme. link to theguardian.com

      What is clear from reading interviews among the survivors of the extreme violence against the "soft target" strategy that ISIS has now actively embraced can only be appreciated when we refrain from adopting an alienating "Orientalist" and detestable reductionist "Other" which allows us to inconsistently choose as worthy victims people such as Layan Nasser as well as viciously brutal terrorists (aka "moderates" and "rebels" in national security parlance) when they wreak devastation with our tacit and covert blessing.

      Until we can summon the moral courage to demand the cessation of military aid and diplomatic cover for acts of violence done by states and groups who receive our money and military support, we will continue to sully the memory of Layan Nasser and the other innocent victims whose deaths could have been prevented.

  • Now is the time for Obama to Recognize Palestine
    • The Obama administration, by abstaining from the UN National Security vote whose resolution was explicit in condemning Israel for illegal settlements, rings hollow.

      For in September 2016 it was announced that Israel would be given $38 billion in aid over the next decade, the largest increase ever. link to nytimes.com

      So, when placed in context, essentially Obama is engaged in political theater though he has legitimate reasons for disliking disliking Israeli PM Netanyahu who has excoriated Obama in public on several occasions that violates diplomatic protocol.

      Essentially, the U.S. has maintained for decades that Israel's expansion into the West Bank through the increase in building illegal settlements violates inetrnational law. Yet, with the billions in aid given to Israel by the Pentagon (funded by American taxes), has inexorably funded Israel's stated objective to annex the West Bank. Indeed, when one examines the how difficult it is for Palestinians to pass through Israeli checkpoints to function, land-grabbing from the Palestinians, there is no possibility for a one state solution and the objective of Netanyahu has largely succeeded in making it impossible for there to be a contiguous Palestinian state with control over its own resources (especially water, electricity and all agriculture) that are necessary to sustain an independent state.

      I think though unlikely Israeli's senior politicians could eventually be summoned to the International Criminal Court which now is considering initiating a legal inquiry into possible war crimes committed by Netanyahu (which Netanyahu considers "preposterous").
      link to haaretz.com

      Prof. Cole is probably correct that there is now a legal basis for recognizing a Palestinian state, but given how unstable the regions from West Asia (Afghanistan to Western Pakistan) to the Middle East continuing through to North Africa and the Horn of Africa plus Turkey, the creation of a Palestinian state could very precipitate greater destabilization. How likely would international recognition of a Palestinian state reduce the extreme violence in the regions mentioned earlier?

      Certainly Russia could use its new status as a political power in the Middle East to support a Palestinian state with a possible alliance with China and Turkey. But that might prove political dangerous for Egypt's peace agreement with Israel. (It would be surreal if Iran, with political cover from Russia developed formal relations with Palestine in such a scenario).

      Given "facts on the ground," opportunities for a Palestinian state seem almost impossible. Still, Obama managed to use the UN Security Council to humiliate Netanyahu while he departs office with the world more unstable than he inherited.

  • Israel's Netanyahu et al. Throw Trump-like Tantrums after UNSC Slam
    • There is something deliciously ironic in the behavior of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu Netanyahu who has publicly snubbed Tory PM Theresa May of Great Britain for the UK's security vote even though May just signed-off a sweeping bill that equates criticism of Israel with not only antisemitism but as a way of "combating hatred against Jews."
      link to theguardian.com

      Netanyahu and his Likud party have managed not only to insult many of his allies but also the very same UN body whose outdated structure of the National Security Council has allowed the U.S. to reliably veto resolutions against Israel.

      With only 5 permanent members who can veto any resolution they don't like (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States), Israel has been able to brazenly continue violating international law with great brutality in a way that other states would find themselves subject to crippling economic sanctions and would become a pariah state.

      Since its founding in 2006 through 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel's actions 45 times for contravening international law through the building of settlements and violent military actions in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golon Heights. Yet, Israel has not been punished or prevented from continuing to expand its territory through confiscation of Palestinian land and the building of a wall that was never designed as a security measure, only another mechanism to appropriate land.

      For an incisive account of how U.N Security resolutions have been interpreted over time (and weakened), read the June 2008 report by the independent Security Council Report available here: link to securitycouncilreport.org

      Netanyahu's castigation of the foreign ambassadors to the U.N. and public humiliation of President Obama as well as consulting with President-Elect Trump who has no constitutional authority to formally meet or negotiate with foreign heads of state demands contextual scrutiny.

      When we do so, it is not unfair in the least to claim that Netanyahu's bloviating intransigence about Israel's legitimate right to deny Palestinian rights is even more brazen because it is part of a movement to deny people in other countries the right to free speech. How else can we view the pressure placed on the UK to adopt policies which equate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism that was created by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance?

      Conflating anti-Semitic prejudice with criticism of or opposition to Zionism and the State of Israel is tantamount to abolishing free speech. Jewish university students groups have recognized that the denial of free speech contradicts a fundamental democratic right. link to freespeechonisrael.org.uk and link to theguardian.com

      Even in Israel, the absurdity of denying free speech has been articulated with the kind of moral seriousness that can only be fully appreciated by knowing precisely the kind of critics who would be branded as spewing hatred of Jews, something that is always morally detestable.

      In Harretz -- the Israeli equivalent of the NY Times, Peter Beinart argues persuasively that if critics of Israel are by definition anti-Semitic, then Henrietta Szold, Hannah Arendt and Martin Buber, three Jewish thinkers justly celebrated for their contributions toward understanding the banality of evil emanating from the Shoah, would nonetheless be classified as "Jew-haters."

      Israel exists and that is good. The issue is simply applying the same standards to Israel that we do when evaluating the policies of other states .

      The Holocaust was certainly the most horrific of many mass murder calamities which still hovers over us and should always unsettle us. But murderous intent also resulted from moral cowardice among decent and respectable people.

      In moral philosophy, weakness of the will is the consequence of failing to fulfill one's ethical obligations with complete knowledge of the likely (immoral) outcome. That is precisely why we must criticize both anti-Jewish bigotry and Palestinian oppression. The alternative is to willfully capitulate to the ludicrous claims made by apologists for human indignities, a tendency that always accentuates the worst in human tribal instincts.

  • Top Five ways Jesus was not White
    • The 2001 BBC series, "The Son of God," analyzed 6th century human skulls and through forensic reconstruction, produced an image of Jesus that does not conform to the 19th century Nordic-Aryan model which remains the predominant image in Western Christianity.

      Generally, it is only among the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala in Southern India and some of the Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity where Jesus depicted as Middle Eastern-North African. link to theguardian.com

      If one actually examines accounts of Jesus written in the Tankh, koine Greek, Aramaic and Syriac (Western Aramaic), Jesus was poor and might have even had a spinal deformity. But especially in Ethiopian Christianity, which predates European Christianity, Jesus is dark-skinned, a man who was definitely "swarthy" in a way Ben Franklin would have disapproved.

      It is unlikely that a blue-eyed, fair-skinned Jesus would be smuggled into and survived incognito in ancient Egypt if His features would have drawn attention to him, his mother Mary and non-biological father, Joseph.

      Whiteness as a social category and biological conceit, only assumed prominence with the rise of 19th century social Darwinism. And it remains difficult to reconcile the humble birth of Jesus (among farm animals, born to single mother whose spiritual ethos was devoted to those whom society had rejected: the poor, the oppressed and social outcasts (e.g. lepers, epileptics, disabled) .

      The Jesus of the Gospels was a dissident and not a populist demagogue.

      Palm Sunday in fact, should be viewed as remembrance of one of the greatest examples of a poor people's movement in world history. For it is the masses of the poor who marched through the narrow streets of Jerusalem in a celebratory manner that was more reminiscent of a royal parade, at least as recorded in the Gospel of John (12:12-19).

      Jesus challenged the bigotry and the brutal domination of of the masses by an oligopoly whose power deflated the inherent dignity of people no matter their tribe.

      The Jesus movement, then, was multicultural and encouraged people to forego narrow sectarian beliefs for universal aspirations.

      And this is precisely the kind of movement that creates the possibility for trust and social solidarity rather than fear-based cowardly attacks against civilians and the most vulnerable.

      There is no room for ethnic chauvinism or the restoration of some mythical master race by people claiming Jesus as their example and American and European culture as singularly Christian.

      Jesus, in His "Sermon on the Mount," endorses compassion and justice while blessing the meek and everyone who suffers from social indignities. This is the beautiful world that Jesus invites us to create.

  • Why the UN Resolution on Israeli Squatting didn't Go Far Enough
    • Actually, this was a significant move by the Obama administration. Netanyahu is livid because the vote makes it possible that future Israeli politicians could be tried for war crimes.

      Israel has pursued two strategies that can eventually hurt it.

      First, by building a wall that is not actually designed to protect Israel from Palestinians, but to steal their land. Second, the expansion of settlements in order to create facts on the ground.

      These two strategies occurring in tandem are not only extremely brutal but are creating a massive demographic problem for Israelis. (Myanmar has also followed Israel's example in the treatment the stateless Rohingya Muslims during the last 40 years. Rohingya are denied even limited humanitarian aid and they are unable to be migrate back to Bangladesh and since 2014, have become the targets of lethal violence encouraged by some senior Burmese Buddhist monks).

      Israel's annexation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Palestinian land has also created serious domestic problems. For example, although Israel welcomes Jews from around the world such as the Cochin Jews of India after the partition of South Asia and Ethiopia's Falasha Jews in 1984 and 1991, racism is quite prevalent.

      European Jews are viewed as superior to Mediterranean Jews (kin complexion matters). And only a minority of Israeli Jews are religious, another domestic fault line since the illegal settlements are occupied by the most conservative religious Jews with much larger families than those living elsewhere. Israel's economy cannot continue to support the expansion of these settlements and maintain a viable economy.

      I think that it is entirely conceivable that the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt could unravel given how fragile Egypt's political situation is at the moment, especially as tourism from Russia has largely evaporated and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Egypt is increasing.

      So far, Israel has avoided serious blowback from the proxy wars that are not only destabilizing the Middle East, but affected North African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco.

      If the campaign to boycott Israel continues to gain momentum, Israel's economy will continue to contract and U.S. military aid will do nothing to stabilize the economy.

      Prof. Cole makes a valid point about how Israel, under American patronage at the UN Security Council (through veto power) has largely been protected from the harsh treatment that was meted out to Iraq and Iran. I think the dilemma for U.S. foreign policy is that our dichotomous standards (support the Gulf states with horrific human rights and active support of jihadist groups) while punishing Iran who have not violated any international laws regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy is unsustainable.

      Iran, given its geography and population size, is already a regional power just as China is in East Asia.

      There is every indication that Russia with its resurgence as a world power in virtual of its alliance with Syria, Iran and now China, will be able to influence any and all overtures to a comprehensive peace and reconstruction plan for Syria and Yemen and possibly even for the Turkish Kurdistan.

      It's clear that the U.S. cannot resolve the extreme violence that has been unleashed in the states surrounding Israel without Russia. There are too many contradictory factors in play at this point and I'm unsure we have witnessed the apogee of failed states yet.

      Israel has become more isolated with Friday's UNSC vote and that is why Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is worried.

      Plus, the war crimes that have been especially pronounced under successive Likud leaders, is undermining domestic stability and leading Israel down a path where American support is no longer sufficient to guarantee its long-term viability.

  • Trump blames Muslim immigrants for Turkey, Berlin Violence
    • Two things come to mind.

      There has been a discernible shift in the strategy of ISIS during the last 2-3 years. Now, for attacks in Western countries. they have simplified ways to weak destruction and to cause fractures that demonize disaffected Muslin on the receiving end of nonstop venous invective by facilitating fulminations of anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab public invective (most people sadly conflate Arab and Islam).

      ISIS is fully cognizant of the response by Western countries. And their new modus operandi reduces the need for complex training in the use of explosives with timers which required migration to covert training centers and an increase in communication ("chatter") that can be more readily intercepted by intelligence services.

      So, this shift to "soft target" has been undertaken as a carefully crafted strategy, completely decentralized and making use of trucks and vehicles as weapons, the low-tech equivalent of commercial airplanes as bombs.

      Europeans for centuiries have celebrated their open markets, most especially during the Christmas season.

      Most seem to understand that protecting democratic freedom is fundamental; that anyone seriously proposing a binary (and therefore false dichotomy) over freedom from state intrusion through the installation of thousands of more CCTV cameras is merely to fool the public into eviscerating from while under the the illusion that in so doing, they will achieve greater security.

      Nonetheless, security experts agree that "German officials... did not" appear to have...obstacles capable of stopping a lorry in Berlin."

      In the 12/20/2016 edition of the BBC, a story entitled, "Berlin attack: Can police protect Christmas crowds?" the answer was unambiguously simple: they were unable to offer guarantees since "Christmas markets can't be turned into fortresses," one German official said the day after the attack. "We have an unlimited number of soft targets. There are so many possibilities to attack with a lorry and kill people."

      Then there is the problem of failure of regional security agencies and the police to solve the problem which has plagued France with the largest Muslim population in Europe: poor sharing of crucial information.

      Still, in Germany, significant Muslims, especially in in Wuerzburg, vehemently denounced violence committed by people they don't know personally with placards written in German which stated, ""Not in my name." Most of Germans Muslims were recruited to work in German factories since the early 1970s and whose parents and grand-patents were raised in a secular state (Turkey) before seeking labor in Germany.

      Missing from most public disscucions, especially led by Gerany's AfD party leader attempt to argue that immigration is creating discontent and the erosion of the "imagined community" of Germany as a singular, unfified country, when the forest East Germany has experienced severe de-industrialization and which shares few commanaliities with Bavaria, the Rhine Valley and the more refined high Germany (Hochdeutsch) form of speaking she has mastered in order to appear more refined and less xenophobic despite revealing the unsubtle aspects of her views; ones, that, while expressed more eloquently than those if Marie LePen of France, remain decidedly suffused with a belief in how non-white and especially immigrants are destroying Germany culture despite the sharp regional regional differences that shape educational quality and possibilities for economic mobility.

      A useful Guardian profile demonstrates how the alternatives she espouses will favor her "Chosen people" over those whose ethno-religious background relegates them to frenzied, hysteria rather the creation of more inclusive public policy proposals. This seems merely a more sophisticated method of encouraging increased scapegoating of people and communities deemed undesirable. link to theguardian.com

      Sadly, in our post-fact era, there is almost complete discussion of how violence by had remained fairly constant in Germany and not on an upward dangerous climb by immigrants ans asylum speakers.

      Britain journalist Robert Fisk,supports the argument made several times in 2016 that "Isis is using terror to eliminate multicultural countries like Germany – and the far-right is helping them." Unfortunately, this morally horrific but tactically brilliant response by ISIS to Western (read America-UK dominated Gulf state allies) are similar in the asymmetric assemblage increases the likelihood that more extremists will find the allure of ISIS their most efficacious means of striking back.

      Placing these developments altogether, we can reasonably conclude that this isn't simply a war without mercy, but more insidious: the unwinnable prosecution of military interventions at the behest of incoherent political objectives. link to independent.co.uk

  • Hard Truth: Aleppo Rebels weren't defeated by Main Force but b/c they alienated Syrians
    • This is a thoughtful analysis, but I have some disagreements regarding terminology as well as long-term tendencies that form a ;long line of continuity no matter which wing of the business party occupies the West Wing in the U.S. (i.e. Democrats and Republicans).

      First, the name "Viet Cong" is pejorative. It was a term of propaganda invented to confuse the American public from understanding that the majority of the fighting by U.S. soldiers (and our allies) was against Vietnamese who were from the South of Vietnam and not Northern Vietnam. The phony Gulf of Tonkin "incident" is one glaring example that the Vietnamese had multiple armies whose dominant objective was to regain independence from the Chinese, then the French and finally the Americans.

      Second, the U.S. has never embraced social movements which topple leaders for fear that the wrong people will come to power, those who insist on national control over the resources within their borders.

      President Clinton and his National Security staff were alarmed with Father Aristide, in a house-to-house "social Gospel inspired movement, won the 1991-1992 elections in Haiti and therefore, immediately sponsored a coup against Father Aristide who merely wanted to raise wages to $1/hour and make life more bearable after the brutally despotic role of "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier.

      Third, consider the 1978-1979 Iranian Revolution which toppled the Shah of Iran. Progressives and the secular working-class, middle class and a significant number of elites made common cause with the religious reactionary right but rampant infighting among the former allowed for the ascendancy of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

      The U.S. could have prevented the Iranian Revolution but unconditional support for the Shah and his brutal internal intelligence agency (SAVAK) went too far, as was the case when the West German police allowed the "Shah's men" to bludgeon the peaceful demonstration outside the German Opera House in West Berlin in 1967 and even participated (as well as the East German Stasi or secret police).

      Just as in the case of Vietnam after U.S. forces evacuated in 1975 and Vietnam was prevented from receiving any support from the World Bank and UN agencies, the U.S. imposed harsh economic sanctions against Iran by the Reagan White House which are still largely in place today even though the Obama team held successful negotiations with Iran that President-Elect Trump's team will likely try to undermine.

      The dilemma for the U.S. is that foreign policy elites want to prevent Iran from becoming a regional power (an impossibility given its size, geography and expanding ties with Russia and China. (The U.S. "pivot" to East Asia is equally ludicrous since China is already a regional and global power as it dominates economic development in Southeast Asia, expands deeper into Sub-Sahara Africa, etc.).

      Fourth, the U.S. never supported the "Arab Spring" because again, the wrong people could transform policies that are more beneficial to them.

      It's instructive to consider how the U.S. responded to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia and how nearly all of Latin America is gaining its independence from Euro-American dominance in 500 years, something which is alarming to the foreign policy elites and that is why the U.S. justifies covert military action through Colombia under the pretext of cocaine eradication.

      Fifth, as for the use of the term "moderates" in official statements by each successive POTUS, it is indisputably a term taken out of CIA playbook since it refers to extremists, people "we can do business with."

      But as Prof. Cole has argued persuasively, the sheer complexity of Syria's ethno-religious groups and the fact that this is a proxy war being waged by largely the Saudi's, ensures that the rebels will enter 2017 without the support of most of Syria's population.

      Lastly, Obama and his team had no chance in Syria because of a foreign policy that supports Israel, Saudi Arabia/Gulf states and the Iraqi Kurds but yet allows Turkey to commit atrocities against the 20-25 million Kurds trying to survive under Turkish authority.

      And to make matters even more disastrous, "containing" Iran remains a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. The net effect is the violent destabilization of West Asia (Afghanistan to Western Pakistan), the Middle East and North Africa as more failed states come into existence.

      Consider Libya. Libya has always served a gateway to Europe via the Mediterranean and its collapse is largely responsible for the refugee crisis that has been a boon for reactionary (neo-fascist?) parties masquerading as populist-nationalist bulwarks against contamination from Muslims/Arabs (they always conflate these two very different social categories); and dark-skinned refugees in countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Greece.

      If we are honest, Iran needs to become a partner in helping resolve the bloodbaths that are starting to convulse Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and even Tunisia.

      Otherwise, we can expect decades of violence to ensue in the same morally despicable ways that occurred when the U.S. supported the Khmer Rouge after they were defeated by Vietnam in 1979 who liberated "Kampuchea" in response to several vicious and unprovoked attacks against Vietnam.

  • Is Bruited Sec. of State Tillerson allied with Iran & at war with Iraq?
    • There are over 20 million Kurds in Kurdistan, most of whom are under the authority of Turkey, which has been brutal to the Kurds, even more so than when Iraqi Kurds lived under Sadaam Hussein.

      It's not too far to go from semi-autonomy in Iraq to a sovereign state.

      Bangladesh was created from East Pakistan and Eritrea emerged from Ethiopia.

      In the future we might find that the Catalans of Spain have either a semi-autonomous region or something just short of a state, possibly some sort of confederated status or the equivalent of Scotland in the United Kingdom pre-Brexit.

      But I'm sure Turkey would object because just as China likes having Tibet (but cares less for the people), Turkey would like to retain control over Kurdistan.

      Prof. Cole does make a keen observation about Tillerson as head of Exxon-Mobil and the implications that his appointment as Secretary of State would have for US policy towards Iran, which contrary to popular accounts is less about nuclear power and more about preventing Iran from becoming a regional power.

      As I see it, U.S. foreign policy from West Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan) to the Middle East and North Africa has destabilized most of the states contained in these linked regions.

      The U.S. and UK are the chief suppliers of weapons to Saudi Arabia , which is destroying Yemen through an intensive bombardment campaign that summons the horrors of Cambodia and Laos under Nixon/Kissinger.

      And yet, ISIS and various jihadists that are fighting the U.S.-led coalition forces somehow obtain the very same weapons we supply Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states with. There is ample evidence that U.S. weapons are passed on from so-called "moderates" supposedly siding with the U.S., actually are obtained by the very groups we deem our enemies.

      What's worrying about Trump's appointments is that he likes to pair people with differing views against each other as if it's some sort of contest.

      Historically, the CIA director is the Deputy National Security Advisor. A story in the Guardian on 12/11/2016 indicated that unlike the FBI, which widely supports Trump, the CIA is quite worried that Trump is unwilling to accept their findings about Russian interference via hacking (of the DNC and leaks of HRC's emails with John Podesta that were published by Wikileaks) and possibly covert financing (as they have done for Marie LePen's National Front in France:
      link to theguardian.com

      And lastly, Trump has not been reading his daily National Security briefings, as President-Elects are naturally expected to do.

      This really suggests that the agendas of the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, Pentagon (mostly involved in arms procurement and weapons development and selling to allies), the National Security Council, the State Department, Homeland Security and the FBI could come into serious conflict.

      Already Trump has been reckless with China through his dealings with Taiwan, violating protocol established in 1979. China is extremely worried as well. link to theguardian.com

      I think we are entering an even more dangerous era than currently exists and some wrong moves could lead to war in East Asia as well.

      Certainly China does not take kindly to a more militarized Japan and the stability of South Korea is under threat due to the legislature's vote to impeach their first female President which is now under review by their Supreme Court. (She has been stripped of her power and the Prime Minister has assumed her authority). link to theguardian.com

  • 5 Top Reasons Romney ought to have Withdrawn
    • Actually Romney's transformation from a progressive liberal when governor of Massachusetts (or moderate Republican if you like), demonstrates just how much the Republican party has changed since Eisenhower. One could make the argument that despite his "war on drugs" policies, Nixon was the last liberal President if you actually look at his policies. Nixon's anti-drug policies included substantial funding for treatment and prevention. Now we just condemn those who use the drugs of choice for the poor to long prison sentences (a form of slave labor). Nixon didn't support or even consider mandatory minimum sentences, supported greater regulation of banks as well as far more labor-friendly policies. (No, I'm not a fan of Nixon or a Republican).

      Bill Clinton was a masterful politician (perhaps the best we've had since FDR at the machinations required to be a successful POTUS). But his foreign and domestic policies weren't progressive at all. He cleverly used a preventive-strike against Newt Gingrich and his "Contract for Americans" to weaken the Republicans when they had tremendous power. Clinton also signed off on NAFTA, the Protection of Marriage Act and made it possible for our private government records to be purchased by private companies.

      The Republicans have major problems and Romney exemplified them. They have become overly influenced by fanatics of various kinds including Christian Zionists, climate change deniers and anti-evolutionary biology zealots who thrive on fear. They support a large, aggressive state (catering to big banks, hedge funds and the Über-wealthy and their subsidiary military-security supply chains). And, much like their British Tory counterparts, are especially keen to dismantle Social Security and unequivocally against the creation of a more efficient, cheaper, universal form of health care.

      Romney's problem is that after switching policies so many times and trying to cater to the Tea Party and far right Republicans in self-contradictory ways, he lost the trust of everyone. He is too polarizing a figure to even unite Republicans.

      Perhaps Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana and former Rhodes Scholar who earned a B.S. in Biology at Brown University, might offer a more coherent form of conservatism. But Jindal supported the Louisiana Science Education Act which allows for the teaching of creationism and so is as anti-science as his Republican partymainstream. Read here: link to motherjones.com

  • The Need for New Blood at State Dept.: Obama's Problem with the 'Vision Thing'
    • Sure Obama inherited the (horrific? catastrophic?) policies of the era of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz et. al. But Obama has gone much further than they did. The Mesopotamia region had high levels of intermarriage between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims but Paul Bremer, after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, mandated religious segregation, fomenting sectarian violence. Plus, the Baathist state apparatus was dismantled, and the Iraqi military was dismissed en masse.

      Danesh (ISIS) recruited them along with technocrats and well-educated, experienced government officials. Has Obama's team done anything to decrease sectarian policies? No, they have exacerbated them by supporting extremely corrupt leaders with little or almost no popular support. Yemen and the Gulf of Aden is strategically located. But drone killings have made Yemen among the most important regions for recruiting jihadists. Yemen had higher rates of unemployment than Greece during the austerity period (that might now be challenged) and was the poorest country in North Africa. Destroying schools, hospitals, mosques and killing thousands of civilians has not been a means of "winning hearts and minds."

      The fanaticism of the Wahabi/Salafist form of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia, our closest ally among Arab OPEC countries, has produced many of the most extreme jihadists. But the U.S. has always adopted a schizophrenic foreign policy. It is shocking to consider that the U.S. has never supported secular independent nationalism but instead, its converse: religious extremism. We consider any leader/regime "moderate" if they support U.S. interests rather than their own domestic needs. So, the 2011 "Arab Spring" was undermined by the fear of U.S. leaders that the wrong people would come to power.

      The Asia-Pacific policies of the Obama administration have been predicated on "containing" China. So more bases opened and more soldiers stationed in countries that form an arc around China such as in Darwin, Australia. This is a failed policy because the U.S. needs China for many of the most pressing issues whether the global economic crisis, climate change, dealing with North Korea, and border disputes in what we can call Northeast Asia and Central Asia. Despite huge structural problems and urban-rural inequality and massive corruption, China is a global power. There is no way to prevent China from continuing to exert its presence culturally and throughout the world economy. China spends a pittance on its military and is instead, investing in technology and in regions where the U.S. has largely ignored. Few people have taken notice of how much China has been investing in Africa. Here is an article worth reading: link to theguardian.com

      There is little positive one can say about Putin's Russia but U.S. provocation in the Ukraine (via a coup) and the expansion of NATO into Russia's historic sphere of influence (in the Ukraine and Central Asia) has been a disaster. Putin's moves in the Crimea are hardly surprising even if ultimately dangerous. The "rollback" strategy to dismantle Russian influence in the Caspian Sea region, has led to U.S. covert affairs in Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldavia. Obama has done nothing to stop this and has even been more aggressive than his Presidential predecessors. Is this not something reminiscent of the buildup to the Cuba Missile Crisis, which we now know almost led to nuclear war as the Cold War History Project has revealed?

      The territories that comprise Mesopotamia, West Asia, North Africa and the Gulf States are poorly understood by elite American officials. They routinely ignore reports by linguistically proficient analysts in the Departments of State and Defense and the CIA. An internal 2009 CIA report entitled, "Best Practices in Counterinsurgency," clearly indicates that targeted killings de-stabilize fragile states and almost always lead to disastrous consequences. Yet, the Obama team has not been deterred. You can read the report here: link to commondreams.org

      There is enough expertise among the staff of our government agencies who have indeed developed alternative policies. There are also more students and career state employees studying Persian (Farsi), Modern Standard Arabic, Turkish and Central Asian languages at American universities than a decade ago (and fewer studying Japanese).

      But we live in a culture of fear. It's career suicide if you typically write reports that fail to correspond to what your superiors want to hear. The same is true of reporting breaches of security or wrong-doing. Obama's record of intimidation of whistle-blowers makes it less likely for people to report something is amiss.

      We also live during an era saturated with mixed messages. Few people know that the Taliban and al-Qaeda, ISIS and other groups hold conflicting views. Turkey remains a critical ally of the U.S. There is now incontrovertible evidence that ISIS would not be financially viable without the ability to slip through Turkey to sell oil, collect military hardware and other essential resources. Iran has the military capability to destroy ISIS but the U.S. remains suspicious of Iran partly out of fear that its Shi'a majority would forge links with the Shiites in Iraq despite the horrific 8 year war between Iraq and Iran. So, again, we have a schizophrenic policy of attempting to maintain Iran's international isolation while also trying to create closer ties with Iran (which Iran wants and needs much as was the case with China in 1979 after the 10 year Cultural Revolution decimated Chinese society). But how many scholars, public intellectuals and politicians would have the moral courage to challenge the prevailing consensus that Iran is evil?

      If there is one thing we might want to reflect on in the aftermath of 9/11, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the various proxy wars the U.S. has fought from then to the present it is this: "shock and awe" warfare will never achieve viable political outcomes; only greater political grievances that can become the best recruiting strategy for political opportunists in asymmetric conflicts. And as Juan Cole wrote about on Jan. 7th, each time the U.S. and our allies overreact to acts of violence/terrorism, we lose because our adversaries (usually people from countries we have either invaded or acted aggressively towards), foment crises that ineluctably leads to greater loss of democratic freedom, more social unrest and a climate of fear (thus "sharpening the contradictions").

  • Top 7 Things to know about Belgium anti-terror Op that left 2 Dead
    • The U.S. has never supported secular independent nationalism liberal-left (think Egypt's Nasser and Iran's Mossadeq) for fear that it might lead to a Pan-Arab movement. The same is true with Indonesia in the 1965 bloodbath which saw close to a million people killed who were a combination of liberals, leftists and communists (i.e. PKI), allowing Suharto to assume power.

      As the Pentagon Papers describe in great detail, the Indochinese wars were mainly to prevent a bad example -- the "rot in the barrel" -- from spreading across East Asia; and it was largely successful in that objective since Indonesia was prevented from realizing the goals of the 1955 Bandung Conference. Plus, all of the Southeast Asian states became part of our Japan-led Pacific political economy-security web.

      The U.S. has always supported extremist governments. So-called "moderate" states are those who do our bidding at the expense of their domestic population. The Arab Spring scared Washington and efforts were made to prevent it from upsetting the balance of power favorable to U.S. interests.

      The problem is that failed states in Mesopotamia (Iraq and Syria) and in North Africa (Yemen and Tunisia) have been opportunistically taken over by ISIS and other extremist groups who often compete with one another for power and influence.

      The corruption of the installed leaders of Iraq by the U.S. meant that most people in the north were unable to get water and electricity. ISIS delivered what they needed and there seems to have been a appreciation for that but the local populations in northern Iraq don't seem keen to support ISIS because of their extremist behavior (that might have once been ideological but now seems to be more like a criminal enterprise, one very sophisticated.)

      ISIS poach oil from Kurdistan, a region fraught with complexities since Turkey represses its Kurdish population.. I think Turkey also doesn't want to get dragged into an unremitting, brutal war with ISIS so the porous borders allow the sail of oil and other commodities that funds ISIS. Plus, ISIS has been shrewd in buying up infrastructure and employing former Baathist civil servants and military soldiers and officers who were dismissed after the American invasion. There is even credible evidence that ISIS will be issuing its own currency (The Islamic dinar) soon. Here's an article from the Guardian: link to theguardian.com

      In an article from the Guardian on Jan. 16th, it was reported that "Verviers as a hotbed of radical Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas adherents. In Jalhay, in the forests of the Ardennes south-east of Verviers, there was a training camp for Belgian and Dutch jihadis." link to theguardian.com

      But why Verviers? It's a post-industrial city with greater alienation than radicalization. But the group Sharia4Belgium has been actively trying to recruit these disaffected young men. See the article in The Independent from Jan. 16th. link to theguardian.com

      Fortunately, an extremely small percentage of young men from Western Europe (particularly France, Belgium and Germany) are attracted to these extremist, violent groups and there has been some success by several fathers in contacting and meeting their sons who fled home to join the jihadist movement in Syria via Turkey. From the BBC: link to bbc.co.uk

      I guess the question of all us must ask is how Western European leaders and the social institutions of their countries can increase the percentage of nationals born in their countries who rarely make it to university or to the more elite trade schools, then suffer from chronic underemployment and social exclusion.
      Europe has a very poor record of accomplishment in this regard.

      Despite major social inequalities that remain in the U.S., the Civil Rights movement had a profound effect on increasing access to higher education among minorities and affirmative action has been a huge respect even if there are attempts to dismantle it by the right-wing politicos. But Europe has not yet devised a comprehensive plan to do anything even tepid despite sharp demographic changes that require accepting multiculturalism as a social fact with profound economic implications and political consequences.

      In the process, maybe we can begin to acknowledge that the 1 billion plus Muslims aren't a monolithic group intent on violence despite less than .0001% who join the conflicts in Mesopotamia as overseas fighters and occasionally attempt to "sharpen the contradictions" in their countries of birth: Europe.

  • Paris Rally: Charlie Hebdo Team regret not Parading Caricatures of Hypocritical World Leaders
    • Der Spiegel had two great satirical cartoons of the Pegida movement, a strange melange of members whose interest vary from anti-immigration, anti-Islam, opposition to German economic policy, disenchantment with the EU, and contains skinheads espousing neo-Nazis slogans with violent streaks. Plus, they attract lots of underemployed people. They have gained greater legitimacy from the support of the parliamentary party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). The movement is now opportunistically using the massacres in France last Wed. as a way to mobilize consensus among the different agendas of the diverse groups who comprise the movement.
      The cartoons:
      link to spiegel.de

      link to spiegel.de

      What is worthy of reflection is the willingness of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to march at a rally with Muslims in Berlin today (Jan. 13th) in order "to promote tolerance, condemn the attacks in Paris and send a rebuke to Germany’s growing anti-Islamic movement."

      Here's the Guardian article about Merkel's participation:
      link to theguardian.com

      From anti-Pegida marches that have attracted 3-4 times as many demonstrators, it appears most Germans are not comfortable with the outward expression of hatred towards Muslims.

      A thoughtful article from Der Spiegel International investigates provides greater clarity than almost every mainstream media outlet publishing in English and French and is worthy of further analysis: link to spiegel.de

  • After Paris attacks, could David Duke style Racist Parties Sweep to Power in Europe?
    • States use nationalism to bind diverse social groups together. It’s a secular form of religion that uses similar tropes and symbols. Dichotomies gain a sacred veneer, especially during times of distress. So, in the echo-chambers, we hear “liberals” claims that the French Republican tradition and its cherished civilization is at stake, that American values are under threat, and how our Christian culture is being undermined by, well, them, others.

      Germany is an interesting example. During the late 1960s and especially in the 1970s, factories encouraged the government to hire immigrants from Turkey for the lowest paid work. As an American son of an Army officer living in West Berlin in the early 1980s and attending a German school, people seemed glad that low-wage workers would do work they found beneath them. Three generations have now passed and few Germans of Turkish descent make it to university and become professionals. Most remain underemployed or part of the vast working-class. German unification after the Berlin Wall came crashing down exacerbated matters when suddenly East Germans joined in the mix and deindustrialization created lots of losers in the rest. You need scapegoats and the Pegida movement in Germany has anti-Muslim sentiment at its disposal which can help it overcome the almost bewildering mix of groups that have joined, all with different agendas.

      France, however, remains haunted by the horrors of the Algeria War and 1954 was the watershed year in both Algeria and Indochina. Robert Fisk of the Independent has an important article about the topic of the legacy of Algeria on French society. But his insights have predictably gone unnoticed. Perhaps because certain questions are too inconvenient and the history from 1954 until now is easier to ignore than confront. Algeria was the territory that experienced the most horrific violence -- and yes, state-sponsored terrorism -- that accompanied the brutal colonial fight over the Maghreb. Things get more complicated when we consider how the French state has inserted itself, with lethal force, into West Africa at the moment.

      We are constantly encouraged to criticize domestic terrorism but not when undertaken with the authority of the state. Fisk’s article can be read here: link to independent.co.uk

      Sunday's march in Paris, across different regions of France and around the world, was truly inspiring. But the mix of more than 40 world leaders who walked with French President François Hollande hardly encourages optimism since many of those leaders persecute people who criticize their policies with extreme intimidation and violence. President Hollande might have the lowest approval rating in recent French history, but seeking the advice of former President Nicholas Sarkozy contradicts his articulated objective to bring the diverse communities of France together. Sarkozy’s racist remarks during the 2005 uprising in France while he was Interior Minister was cynical, appealed to the far-right, and inexorably increased distrust and exacerbated fears among ethnic minorities (especially those of Muslims descent).

      If we’re not careful, freedom in Western countries might continue to decline. Protecting freedom by reducing it in the name of security (an appeal to fear), seems to be the opposite of what the 3.7 million marchers across France were against. Right?

      I can say unequivocally that greater security requires trust. But…fear is a great leveler in asymmetric wars and a pernicious, often violent form of “sharpening the contradictions.”

  • Yes, they're Condemning the Paris Attacks: The Muslims' War on Terror
    • Muslim countries around the world overwhelmingly condemned the deadly attacks against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as can was reported on the website Judaism-Islam:
      link to judaism-islam.com

      The Union des Organisations Islamiques de France, which represents more than 250 Muslim organizations across the country, condemned the killings.

      But how much value does free speech have in France when we examine the responses made to those who offend?

      Certainly the staff of Charlie Hebdo continued to publish satirical work despite knowledge that their lives had been threatened and their offices had previously been firebombed. Yet they remained undeterred. That’s moral courage and political conviction of a kind altogether rare given how frequently people self-censor even when under no threats.

      French comedian Dieudonne M'bala created a gesture called the “quenelle” in 2005 as part of his “1905 show” that some organizations have been claimed to represent an inverted Nazi salute. Dieudonne has been found guilty of anti-Semitism by the French state, is now banned from public performances in France and even from entering England. Lurking in the background of Dieudonne’s form of humor and polarizing presence in French popular culture is his anti-Zionism.

      The “quenelle” has also become the source of great controversy because French footballer striker Nicolas Anelka used it after scoring a goal for West Bromwich Albion football club on Dec. 28th in 2013 in the English Premier Club. His penalty: a 5 game suspension and a 50,000 pound fine.

      link to theguardian.com

      Moreover, a range of unrelated people with different professions, ethnicities and nationalities have used the “quenelle” gesture in front of synagogues, a Holocaust memorial in Berlin, and even at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

      What was once, perhaps, an anti-establishment signature and the equivalent of “up yours,” has transmuted into an inverted Nazi salute within the established narrative. The effects on free speech are revealing: get caught in public, especially captured on video and posted online and you become the recipient of legal sanctions and perhaps even job loss.

      Here’s a useful article from France 24/7 International News: link to france24.com.

      A more sophisticated analysis but in French can be found here:
      link to liberation.fr

      In many cases, speech-acts are perpetrated out of racism, ethnic chauvinism and hostility to specific religions and people. In France there over a million youth living (actually warehoused) in banlieues such as the Barbès district in northern Paris, whose parents or grandparents migrated from the Global South. They were born and raised secular yet are still not considered fully French. They are spoken of with an almost reflexive mocking disdain that is as unnerving as it is astonishing. After all religious identities are sealed in perpetuity, right? So it's evidently apparent that anyone of them can shed the veneer of secularism that has defined their lives and suddenly become a fully-formed Muslim terrorist at any time, right?

      Anti-Semitism and xenophobia is a serious problem in France (and Europe). The problem is this: is banning non-violent speech and behavior favorable to inculcating an appreciation for free speech? After all, the whole point of free speech is to allow people the ability to say or imply ideas, to make gestures and perform speech-acts that I find offensive and demeaning. That is not to claim such behavior is morally acceptable. It isn’t. But what kind of freedom remains when offensive speech is banned?

  • Sharpening Contradictions: Why al-Qaeda attacked Satirists in Paris
    • I would go even further, Juan, and say that “‘sharpening the contradictions’ exists as a strategy because of the problem of creating "imagined communities" for a global diaspora whose religious beliefs and linguistic diversity make it incredibly challenging for there to be cross-cultural solidarity.

      The typical Anglo-American response (read the columns in the UK's Guardian and the comments as they are revealing) is to emphasize that those of Muslim and Arab descent (as if they were the same), naturally support such violence.

      Few people understand how secular the Muslim population in France is as well as in Central Asia. Even fewer understand that the overwhelming majority of Iranians under 50 are "pro-Western."

      It's politically shrewd though morally repugnant to use violence to create a sense of transnational solidarity among people whose cultural tastes, social identities and economic needs are so very different. It's a tactic that is probably one of best "weapons of the weak" in a militarized asymmetric political struggle.

      Fear is a great mobilizer and how many states can adopt the Norwegian response to acts of terror? Unfortunately, reliance on panic, fear and distrust continue to be successful ways of accomplishing an otherwise impossible political strategy.

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